|Weiner said he had several affairs but none of them developed into physical relationships [Reuters]
US Representative Anthony Weiner has admitted to having a number of inappropriate relationships with women over the internet, saying he was deeply ashamed but would not resign.
Weiner admitted on Monday to inappropriate internet and telephone conversations with six women but said none of them developed into a physical relationship.
"I'm deeply regretting what I have done and I'm not resigning," Weiner, who had been seen as a rising star among Democrats, told a news conference while wiping away tears as he apologised for his actions and for lying in the cover-up.
The New York Democrat, a leading liberal voice in the US House of Representatives, had been expected to run for mayor of New York City in 2013.
The scandal began more than a week ago when Weiner denied tweeting a photo of a man's bulging boxer briefs to a 21-year-old female student in Washington state, insisting his account had been hacked.
"I tweeted a photograph of myself that I intended as a direct message as part of a joke to a woman in Seattle," he told reporters on Monday.
"Once I realised I had posted it to Twitter, I panicked. I took it down and said that I had been hacked. I then continued to stick to that story, which was a hugely regrettable mistake," he said. "The picture was of me, and I sent it."
Calling his actions "very dumb" and "destructive," he stressed he did not have sex with any of the women.
Weiner is married to Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state. The couple was married in a ceremony officiated by former President Bill Clinton.
"I love my wife very much and we have no intention of splitting up over this," he said.
'A frivolous thing'
Weiner said his affairs were conducted over several years on Twitter, Facebook, email and by phone with women he met online, primarily on Facebook.
He said he sent the women explicit pictures of himself but broke no law, mostly used his home computer and never used his congressional mobile device.
He characterised his relationships with the women as "a frivolous thing" and admitted that the affairs were conducted both before and since he was married.
"Certainly he can forget about [running for] mayor," said Doug Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College in New York, adding that while Weiner might weather the storm, he will likely face a tough challenge if he seeks re-election in 2012.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called for an ethics probe "to determine whether any official resources were used or any other violation of House rules occurred".
Weiner said in a statement that he would "welcome and will fully co-operate with an investigation by the House Ethics Committee".
New York State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox called for his resignation, saying, "His actions are at best despicable and at worst illegal."
Earlier this year, two other members of Congress, both Republicans, stepped down amid scandals. John Ensign resigned from the US Senate amid an ethics committee probe into his extramarital affair with a campaign aide.
US Representative Chris Lee resigned after he posted a photo of himself without a shirt on online.
On Monday, more pictures of Weiner, this time of him from the waist up sitting at his desk naked, surfaced online.